Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Conversation - End Times

Using David Morrell's suggested device, I started a conversation with myself and started to work through the core story idea and character I have in mind for my novel. It went pretty well and it is indeed a fun and clever method to get you going and to track your thought process.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Danse Macabre - Rejection

Rejection is a harsh word. My idea didn't quite fit into Nancy Kilpatrick's anthology.

Here it is...

Mark Drake, a retired 1980s tech entrepreneur, struggling with his thanatophobia, devotes his entire fortune and energies to eluding death. His tenacity pays off and he’s granted immortality, youth, and health. Every ten years Death revisits their arrangement. Drake refuses Death’s embrace despite watching his loved ones die of old age. Again, he declines Death's offer despite having to fake his death and create a new identity. Embittered and fueled by pride, he continues to refuse Death, until he rediscovers the simple joys of existence and a meaningful life through a terminally ill woman and decides to cross over with her.
And Nancy's kind words from her email:
I do hope you'll write it anyway because there's nothing wrong with this idea, it's just a non-fit here, but there are other markets.
Which brings me to another topic, professionalism. Although this wasn't a rejection, it's always important to reply to the rejection email. Just a polite thank you and wishing them luck on the anthology is usually all it takes to put a smile on the editor's face. And get you remembered for the next time they put out a call for submissions.

The Successful Novelist - Lesson Three

- high concept: an intriguing one-liner description of your story, such as Alien being a Haunted house in outer space
- in a high concept story, the plot controls the character
- EM Forester: A story is based on the progression of time. A plot is a more sophisticated form of narrative and is based on causality.
- If it is in a story we say "and then?'
- If it is in a plot we ask "why?"
- insist on knowing your character's true motivations
- characters control the plot
- properly motivated, their fears and desires set events in motion and cause the plot to proceed to a satisfying, inevitable end
- at climax, reversal and recognition occur in an ideal plot
   - where reversal means the events abruptly go in the opposite direction
   - where recognition means the protagonist achieves an important self-discovery, not always pleasant
   - sometimes the reversal causes the recognition or the reverse
   - the character experiences a change, learns something to overcome a flaw
- without conflict, no plot can be interesting, you don't have a plot
- when you understand a person's motives, we are sympathetic to that person, sympathy causes interest
- narrative's unified field theory = a quest and obstacles
  - to turn the story into a plot add motive to conflict, what matters if the conviction with which the two forces compete with each other
- plot = conflict + motivation

The Successful Novelist - Lesson Two

Getting Focused
- Morrell finds plot outlines restrictive
- an alternate is to have a written conversation with yourself to help focus what you want to do
- in the end, you can use that conversation to build your outline
- don't get discouraged with your ideas as familiarity breed contempt
- plot outlines put too much emphasis on the surface of events and not enough on their thematic and emotional significance
- writing is the point, while all of your thinking and talking has been going on if you talk to friends and family about the idea, not a lot of writing gets done
- the ability to write is a perishable skill
- the written conversation should take several weeks to write and amount to roughly 20 single-spaced pages
- remember to keep asking the most important questions: Why is this idea interesting to me? Why would I want to spend a year or more working on it?
- it's a self-analytic quest to create a story and you learn as much about yourself s you do about your work, growing as a person as well as a writer

The Successful Novelist - Lesson One

Why Do You Want To Be A Writer?
  • writing is difficult and requires a considerable commitment of time and energy
  • on every page, confidence fights with self-doubt
  • 2,500 writers earn a living in the US
  • average writer's salary is $6,500
  • writer's write, it's that simple
  • find what sets you apart, find out what your afraid of, find out what you need to tell
So why do I need to be a writer? Because I need to be. There's something inside of me always nagging to get out, a story that needs to be told.

In this chapter, Morrell discusses finding that story within you that needs to be told. It seems to be all related to stress. Using Hemingway as an example, he tapped into the post-traumatic disorder he suffered during World War II and how that fuels his writing. Morrell himself had a terrible childhood with a father killed in WWII and a mother who was forced to put him up for adoption because she couldn't take care of him. She reclaimed him eventually and married again, but Morrell never saw eye-to-eye with his step father. That experience and conflict can be seen in his novel, First Blood, and his protagonist, John Rambo.

Searching within my 40 years of experience, I'm struggling to find something equivalent that I can tap into. My childhood was amazing as were my generous and loving parents. In comparison, it seems to be too good to be true!

There was my mother's battle with depression when I was in high school and that lasted several years through her menopause. I vividly remember taking her to the sanatorium in Sudbury and being unwilling to leave her there with the rest of the disturbed individuals that were there.

There was the summer I came back from University and butted heads with his parents constantly.

There was the time I was dating a young woman and took a stand by moving in with her despite my parents disapproval.

There was my marriage and divorce with a middle-eastern woman that still haunts me and probably needs some cathartic release.

So take some time to reflect on the events in your life that you might also underestimate their effect...

Ideas come from within the writer and you need to be on the look out for the clues your subconscious mind is percolating up.

So ask yourself why do you want to write. My answer is because I need to. The follow-up question is why?

Continuing to answer these questions will help you be honest with yourself and help you find out how to do what you need to do.

So following up with that question, Why do I need to write? Because I feel like I have a story to tell. Because stories are what gave me so much escape as a child, not that I needed an escape from anything horrible, and that I want to give something back.

What stories appealed to me? The ones that immediately come to mind are David Eddings' The Belgariad, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Issac Asimov's The Foundation. Why? They seem to all share a theme of a grand drama and exploration.

The Successful Novelist - First Day in Class

I'm currently reading The Successful Novelist by David Morrell and wanted to share any tidbits as I read it.

From the prologue, First Day in Class:

When he was seventeen, Morrell wrote to the writer of a TV show called Route 66 and told him that he wanted to be a writer just like him. The writer replied with the following advice:
  • write, write, write and keep writing
  • find other people who write and trade ideas with them
  • critique one another's work
  • send out your stuff, but don't get discouraged
  • keep writing
  • it's just that simple, and that terribly difficult
And Morrell's further advice includes:
  • desire alone doesn't get you to be a published novelist.
  • learn about writing by analyzing great novels
  • discover how the experts achieved their effects
  • the only reason to write a novel is that if it grabs you and doesn't let you go until you put it down on paper
  • write a story you feel passionate about and write it well

First post and welcome!

I'm using this blog as a method to chronicle my adventures in writing. It will also serve to keep me motivated and on track to write my novel.

Here's my current writing bio:

Jason Shayer's love of dark fiction has given more than a few people a reason to raise an eyebrow, most often his wife. He's been recently published in Necrotic Tissue #6, in the Dead Science and Through the Eyes of the Undead anthologies, and in Arcane magazine.
And my current bibliography:

“The Ranch” – Necrotic Tissue #6
“No Man’s Land” – Dead Science Anthology
“A Boy and His Zombie” – Flashes in the Dark
“Fitful Rest” – Through the Eyes of the Undead
“The Mine” - Arcane Magazine issue #1
“Steve Gerber and the Marvel Universe” – Back Issue! Magazine #31
“Kitty Pryde” – Back Issue! Magazine #32
“Black Cat” – Back Issue! Magazine #40
“Cloak and Dagger” – Back Issue! Magazine #45
“Thuderstrike!” - Back Issue! Magazine #53
“Legio Mortuus” Zombies Anthology, Dark Moon Books
“Stagnant Waters” - Made You Flinch—Again!
“The Toll” - Zombie Zak’s House of Pain
“Roger Stern’s Avengers” - Back Issue! Magazine #56